They say the only constant in life is change, and as digital marketers scramble to make sense of the latest Google rule changes, it’s becoming clear that the ramifications of these changes for business and the consumer could be widespread and significant.
Any evidence that still existed in relation to Google being simply ‘a search engine’ has been firmly put rest with the introduction of a new algorithm – and here’s why:
If you haven’t had your ear to the ground (or computer screen) recently, you may not have realised that the way Google AdWords arranges (and therefore values) its ads has now changed considerably.
No longer will you see paid advertising on the right-hand side of search results. Google will instead serve four text ads in the main area above organic listings, forcing the ‘natural’ search results further down the page.
In addition, three text ads will be shown at the bottom of the search engine results page (SERP), shrinking the total number of text ads that can appear on an SERP from 11 to a maximum of seven. Product listing ads and ‘knowledge panels’ (sometimes with ads, as tests continue in these spaces) will now show in the right rail on relevant queries.
So, what’s the motivation for this? Is this move designed to increase yield per search or per click? Is it a way to fit more on the page with new products down the right-hand side? Or is this simply part of a strategy to replicate Google’s mobile experience?
Well, it is all of these things… and more.
Many marketers believe that Google is becoming both the marketplace and the point of sale. Traditionally, Google has been viewed as the conduit – the connector, if you like – between the consumer and the product or service. This latest strategy, however, could be the next move in leveraging its significant influence and control in relation to consumer decisions and purchases.
So as the structure changes, is the sun about to set on the organic search?
Not yet, but it will certainly become more challenging, and just how ‘organic’ the search will be in the future remains to be seen. Which begs the question: ‘what does that future hold?’.
Well, the playing field is changing so dramatically, it’s likely to have experienced marketers tearing their hair out in the short term as they completely re-think and overhaul their digital strategies.
For large organisations that have budgets to compete for the top spots under the new structure, costs may increase as competition rises. It will be very interesting to observe how the bidding goes for some of the highly commercial queries such as home loans, credit cards and car insurance.
For many SMEs and sole operators, it will be a whole different story – it will be nigh impossible to compete for those highly competitive search terms, and this will definitely impact the choices that are ultimately served up to the consumer.
So what to do?
First of all, remember to breathe. Take some time to invest in clear, logical and lateral thought. Take notice of the experts and watch carefully to understand how the marketplace reacts, or doesn’t.
It may be time for businesses to emerge from the comfort of the AdWords security blanket and consider other ways of driving, engaging and converting traffic, or monetising existing traffic more effectively.
As the digital landscape morphs and changes, companies and individuals will need to start to think more broadly about how they spend their digital advertising dollars. Reliance on one digital advertising solution is not what the future holds, and the eChoice business is living proof of this.
We are designing our own future for digital lead generation.
We have been developing digital strategies in anticipation of change for years, and we continue to do so with proven results for ourselves and others who are willing to test, learn and implement these strategies. It’s smart and commercially sound, and it’s the future. Google does not stand still – that’s why it is so successful. This is why your business can’t afford to stand still either.
So as the game continues to change, here’s a little food for thought: the owner of the distribution controls the product or service sold.
What will be next for Australia? Will Google become the bank? The mortgage broker? The real estate agent? The travel agent?
Time will tell.
Peter Andronicos is the CEO of eChoice, a boutique aggregator.